Natural stone countertops don't just look great, they also have a high level of durability and heat-resistance that make them an excellent option for a busy kitchen. Marble and granite are both common options for those that want to give the home a luxury appeal and are well-suited for the kitchen. Use this comparison guide to learn the key differences between marble vs granite countertops, so you can select the best countertop material to update your kitchen.
Marble vs. Granite Countertops: Major Differences
Marble and granite both have a long life, high heat resistance, and impressive durability. Despite the large number of similarities, there are some key differences that set them apart. The most obvious difference is the appearance of marble and granite countertops. Marble tends to have a timeless, elegant look with beautiful veining and a unique design for each slab. Granite tends to look more like true natural stone, with a large variety of colors, hues, and styles, marked by flecks of minerals.
Granite is also typically seen as more durable and easier to keep clean than marble because marble is vulnerable to scratches, chipping, and staining. Both materials need to be sealed to protect the porous countertop from liquids, but only granite countertops can last more than 100 years, while marble countertops tend to require replacement after 20 to 50 years. Cost is another deciding factor in favor of granite. On average, you can expect to pay about $40 to $100 per square foot for marble countertops, while granite only costs about $40 to $60 per square foot.
|Appearance||Elegant veining and unique patterns||Attractive freckling of minerals and unique designs|
|Water and Heat Resistance||High level of heat resistance, but it is vulnerable to water if the countertop is not sealed||Resistant to heat, but susceptible to water if the material is not sealed|
|Care and Cleaning||Naturally porous material requires regular cleaning to avoid stains and discoloration||Relatively easy to keep clean with a mild detergent and hot water|
|Durability and Maintenance||Vulnerable to scratches, chipping, and acidic solutions||High-durability option, but it is susceptible to chipping on edges and corners|
|Cost||$40 to $100 per square foot||$40 to $60 per square foot|
|Lifespan||20 to 50 years||100 or more years|
Marble is a highly prized material for interior design due to its attractive appearance. It typically has a consistent gray, blue, pink, or cream color with marble veins running through it, which are usually caused by impurities, like iron oxide. You can also find variations of marble in black and white, though it's important to note that no two slabs of marble will every be identical, since the natural stone patterns are organically created.
Granite is distinctly different from marble, so appearance can play a big part in deciding which material is right for your home. This material tends to have a variety of colors created by freckling of silica, mica, feldspar, amphibole, and quartz throughout the stone. With this in mind, a granite slab may contain a range of different hues, including blue, green, orange, pink, and red. Similar to marble, no two slabs are the same because the pattern is created organically during the formation of the rock.
Best for Appearance: Tie
The appearance of marble and granite countertops is distinctly different, with no one design demonstrating superiority over the other. Personal preference will play a strong role in selecting between the appearance of marble vs granite countertops.
Water and Heat Resistance
The naturally high resistance to heat makes marble an excellent option for use in the kitchen, though it's important to treat the surface with care to avoid damaging the protective seal. If the marble countertop is not properly sealed, water, oil, and other liquids can seep into the stone, stain the surface, or even etch into the marble. This is especially true for acidic foods and liquids, so it's necessary to clean up spills quickly.
Granite is a porous natural stone material that is vulnerable to water, oil, and other liquids. It needs to be sealed and regularly resealed to ensure that liquids do not seep into the stone. While hot pots and pans won't damage the natural stone countertop, they can burn the protective seal, so it's recommended to use pot holders or hot pads while you are cooking.
Best for Water and Heat Resistance: Tie
These two natural stone countertop materials share a high resistance to heat and a vulnerability to water, oil, and other liquids. Make sure the countertop is properly sealed during installation and reseal the countertop about once every one to two years, depending on the frequency of use.
Care and Cleaning
An unfortunate drawback to installing a marble countertop is that marble is naturally prone to staining, even if it is sealed, so any spills need to be cleaned up immediately to prevent permanent damage. Acidic foods and liquids can even etch into the stone, leaving unsightly marks behind that cannot be removed.
Granite is durable, low-maintenance, and relatively stain-resistant as long as it is properly and regularly resealed about once every one to two years. Even minor scratches and chips can be repaired with a stone epoxy.
In general, granite is very durable, stain-resistant, and lower maintenance than marble. Granite should be sealed after installation, and if done properly, water will bead on the surface. Resealing should be completed every year to ensure a solid and efficient surface.
Minor scratches or even small chips can be repaired with stone epoxy. Note, however, that very busy or hardworking kitchens may need extra attention.
Best for Care and Cleaning: Granite
Marble is an attractive option for a kitchen countertop, but it may be too vulnerable to stains for homes with young kids or irresponsible housemates. Opt for the high-durability, low-maintenance, stain-resistant granite alternative to keep the kitchen looking great for years to come.
Durability and Maintenance
Marble and granite countertops tend to be more durable than wood, laminate, or solid surface countertops. However, marble is more susceptible to scratches, chips, and stains than granite because it is a softer stone that typically has a higher porosity. For this reason, marble countertops need to be sealed to protect the material from liquids. Acidic liquids, like lemon juice, tomato sauce, and citrus, are especially unfriendly to marble, so it's important to clean spills quickly before the liquid can etch into the stone.
Granite is harder and more durable than marble, making it resistant to scratches or chips. The drawback to installing a granite countertop is that it is a naturally porous material that is vulnerable to oil, water, and other liquids. However, most granite countertops will have a protective seal that prevents liquids from seeping into the natural stone. Just make sure to regularly reseal the countertop to keep it safe from stains.
Best for Durability and Maintenance: Granite
When it comes to durability and maintenance, both marble and granite need to be regularly resealed to protect the countertop from liquids. Beyond this, marble is more vulnerable to scratches, chips, and staining, making granite the tougher, more durable option.
For those that prefer the elegant appearance of marble to the natural stone of granite, it can be disheartening to find out that there is a distinct difference in the cost between the two materials. On average, a marble countertop will end up costing about $40 to $100 per square foot, so the total cost of the countertop depends on the size, shape, and whether you choose to go for a premium color or custom design.
If you are looking for a high-durability countertop and want to spend less than you would for a marble slab, then granite is the right option. Granite countertops tend to cost about $40 to $60 per square foot, though it should be noted that some specialty colors, like red and blue, could increase the price to as much as $75 to $100 per square foot.
Best for Cost: Granite
In most cases, the cost of a granite countertop is less than the cost of a marble countertop. However, premium products can increase the price of both types of material, so it's important to weigh your options before deciding on the right natural stone material for your kitchen counter.
Marble is a softer material than granite and it's more vulnerable to scratches, chips, and stains. The maximum length of time a marble countertop can last in a home without needing to be replaced is about 20 to 50 years, depending on whether the material is properly maintained and regularly sealed.
A granite countertop is essentially a lifetime investment as long as it is properly cared for, maintained, and regularly sealed to protect the material from scratches, chipping, and stains. Due to the high level of durability, granite can last more than 100 years, so you may be handing down your kitchen counter design choices to future generations if you stay on top of countertop maintenance.
Best for Lifespan: Granite
Most natural stone countertops have a long life that exceeds that of cheaper materials, so it shouldn't be a surprise that both marble and granite can last for decades. However, marble tends to hit the maximum lifespan between 20 to 50 years, while granite can remain in good condition for more than a century.
In most categories, granite is considered superior to marble, including lifespan, cost, durability, and maintenance, as well as care and cleaning. However, both marble and granite are approximately equal when it comes to appearance, installation difficulty, and resistance to water and heat. So, if you don't mind paying more and putting more effort into caring for the countertop, marble can be an excellent option, especially if you prefer the unique appearance of marble over granite.
Those that appreciate the visual appeal of granite over the attractive veining in marble countertops will benefit from the superior durability, stain-resistance, and longer lifespan of this natural stone countertop material. Select the countertop material that is best suited to your home, based on home aesthetics, frequency of use, durability, natural resistance, maintenance requirements, and personal preference.
Can water seep through marble?
Natural stone countertops, like marble and granite, are porous, which means that water and other liquids will seep into the material if the countertop is not properly sealed.
Which is easier to care for, granite or marble?
Typically, a granite countertop is better for durability, stain-resistance, and low maintenance requirements when compared to marble countertops. However, granite still needs to be sealed to protect the porous material from water and other liquids.
How do you clean granite or marble countertops?
To clean granite or marble countertops, create a paste made of baking soda and water for removing oil-based stains or use hydrogen peroxide to clean water-based stains.